Yes. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be dangerous to you and your baby, and it is the leading cause of birth defects. Babies born to mothers who drink during pregnancy may have health problems. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of these problems.
In the United States, about 2 babies out of every 1,000 babies have fetal alcohol syndrome. It is the leading cause of mental retardation in the United States.
Babies who have fetal alcohol syndrome are usually small and underweight. They often have small eyes and a small head. They often have birth defects such as delayed development, heart defects and vision or hearing problems. As they grow older, they may have behavior problems. The most serious problem is mental retardation.
Even small amounts of alcohol can be harmful to an unborn baby. Because no amount of alcohol can be considered safe, pregnant women should avoid all alcohol during the entire pregnancy. (Drinks with alcohol in them include beer, wine, hard liquor and wine coolers.)
"Binge drinking" (having 3 or more drinks at a time) is particularly dangerous for your baby, because it makes the level of alcohol in your blood very high very quickly. So, even if you don't drink every day, you may put your baby at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome if you binge drink.
Be honest with your doctor. Tell him or her how much you are drinking. Your doctor may be able to help you stop drinking before it hurts your baby.
No, there is no cure. Children who have fetal alcohol syndrome can be helped, though. The treatment involves providing them with good medical and dental care, including eyeglasses or hearing aids if needed, and placing them in special school programs to treat behavior or development issues.
The best thing you can do is stop drinking when you are thinking about getting pregnant. If you get pregnant, quit drinking alcohol and drink other beverages instead, such as water, fruit juices or milk.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff